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November 10, 2022

Richard Whitehouse

Poul Ruders may be less regarded for his chamber than for his orchestral and operatic output, and this release offers something of an overdue redress. Much the earliest piece, Throne (1988) is a single span for clarinet and piano whose rhapsodic but never discursive trajectory admits little in the way of concrete evocation. In his amusingly deadpan notes, the composer suggests 10 words chat, read sequentially, imply a process of 'rise, decline and fall' - though this could easily be a ruse in the face of music that is about nothing other than its own inscrutability.
The Clarinet Quintet (2014) encounters Ruders in more combative mood, its opening Avanti pitting clarinet against string quartet so that more reflective moments are at a premium. Only with the central Adagio does an emotional space open up, its sognante marking evident in slowly unfolding textures that conjure a 'nightscape' of rapt eloquence. The final Animato alternates elements from both before it attains a climax of unexpected poise.
Relatively more equable, the Piano Quartet (2016) emerges through an 'Awakening' of gradually diversifying activity, after which 'Innocent' duly entrances with its ineffable serenity. 'Sprighdy' places the emphasis on energetic ensemble interplay, its impulsive culmination suddenly curtailed to reveal a wholly different ethos in 'Translucent' with its methodical closing in on silence. These performances are as formidably accomplished as expected from musicians of the highly regarded Rudersdal Chamber Players, and the sound leaves nothing to be desired. Ruders admirers and newcomers alike should find much to reward them here. Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone, November issue

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